Monday, 11 July 2011

July 11, 2011 - Things People Do (Or How my Faith in Humans was Restored)

Last week I had to rant about the woman with a head the size of her Mercedes who said very impolite things to me while I was on my bicycle.

Today, I have a much better story to share about human behaviour. 

Some background: for my 40th birthday, I got some new phobias, notably height and enclosed spaces.  Mostly I cope.  A year ago it got pretty severe (apparently phobias are connected to menopause symptoms - yet another phenomenon not covered in the manual).  I worked on it, and by spring I was doing much better, blithely riding the subway and taking airplanes.  But when one gets stressed (and I am under a crushing amount of stress right now), phobias and other mental health annoyances rear their nasty little heads.

So... Saturday night I had enjoyed a play downtown and was waiting on the westbound platform at Bathurst station when I felt my breath start to shorten and my palms start to sweat.  Whenever I'm about to ride the subway, I pick a secret helper to stand next to - somebody who looks sympathetic in case I freak out.  I had pre-selected a woman in her 30s and moved closer to her.  I was doing my damndest to breathe slowly, but I was starting to get light-headed, so I said to her, "Excuse me, I'm claustrophobic, and I just want you to know I might be about to faint."  She was awesome.  Without skipping a beat, she reached in her purse, pulled out some mints and said, "Have a mint - it'll distract you.  Lean on the wall.  And look how close the stairs are, right over there."

That was really all I needed.  Assured that if I did faint, she would know not to send for paramedics to perform rib-crushing CPR, I stopped feeling light-headed.  I felt ok to walk to the stairs.  Then I took a cab home. 

I don't look on it as a defeat.  I didn't faint, and that was my goal.  I didn't ride the subway either, but in the overall scheme of things, who cares?  I rode it the next day with no problem. 

And best of all, this kind and sensible stranger did just what I needed her to do in the moment.

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